Life in the fast lane
OK, here it is for all of you who’ve been wanting to know how I’m going with the fasting malarky… You want the short answer? Of course you do: so far it’s yes and no and yes.
YES because it’s so much easier to do than I expected, but NO because I haven’t lost as much weight as I was hoping. And YES because I feel really great on it.
On the down side, I’m not back in my skinny jeans and I’m definitely not back in the favourite pair of trousers which are my goal garment. But on the up, my meh jeans are feeling looser and I could wear my belt one notch in, if I wanted to. My husband says I look slimmer.
But while I’m a bit disappointed about the slow tummy inches loss, I’m not giving up. Losing fat slowly and steadily is meant to be the best way to keep it off and, even apart from that, I feel so spiffingly well on this regime. Full of energy and good cheer. Much better than I did when I started.
Glancing through the Michael Mosley and Mimi Spencer book this morning, I came across a section I hadn’t read before, where they explain the research that’s been done on the positive effect of fasting on mood. That is definitely working for me – and for a moody cow, that has to be good.
Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
You have to be really obsessive
I’m now at the end of my first four weeks, except it really only counts as three because I squandered the first one, not being meticulous enough about my intake.
I had loads of cups of tea with semi-skimmed milk and finished off what was left of my daughter’s chicken at dinner, without accounting for the calories in either of them and, I soon realized, this really made it all a waste of effort.
If you’re going to do this thing, you have to do it. You have to be utterly anal and count everything you eat, which does take some mental arithmetic as the calorie value of everything is listed per 100g… I have weighed lettuce, which was a new experience, but if you don’t go to those lengths, it’s amazing how easy it is to whack on another fast-wrecking 100 calories.
So from week 2 onwards, I weighed everything and measured out 100ml of 1% milk at the start of each day, accounting for the calories in my daily reckoning.
Find out which fast day meal system works best for you
Michael Mosley has a cooked breakfast and dinner. Mimi Spencer has a muesli breakfast, an apple for lunch and a cooked dinner.
After trying both regimes, I found the resulting dinners too disappointing and have taken the lead of my fasting buddy, Maria, who has been doing it for two months and has lost loads of weight. She eats nothing at all until dinner.
Like her, I find it exponentially easier to eat absolutely nothing through the day than to tease my hunger with little morsels and then I can use all my calories – except for the ones I’ve assigned for milk – for dinner. If I’m desperate, I have an apple at lunch time and take another 50 calories off my evening meal.
Choose your days
It’s important to choose your fasting days on Sunday night for the coming week and stick to them. If you keep changing days, it would be all too easy to accidentally miss one, so I do Monday, then Wednesday, or Thursday, depending what I have on.
Plan your fast day food
Obviously you can’t rely on happening to have the right food in the fridge. I plan my fast dinner the day before, so I can maximise the satisfaction of my measly calories.
I don’t find the food plans in the book very helpful, as they are all for a two-meal day, so I’ve calorie calculated a few dinners which work for me and it’s easier just to stick to them, rather than constantly trying new things. I’m looking forward to the the weather getting warmer (it’s foul in the UK right now) so I can have more salads.
Here’s my menu:
*Chicken breast stir fry, with lots of chili, garlic and ginger, with a 10 calorie pack of miracle noodles – which are bearable if you rinse them a lot before cooking and definitely add to your sense of satisfaction.
*Chicken breast cooked en papillotte (in a tin foil parcel) with garlic and lemon, served with piles of steamed veggies, toasted sesame seeds sprinkled on the top (all weighed, of course…)
*Grilled chicken salad
*Grilled fish with salad, stir fry or steamed veg.
*Smoked haddock baked in the oven with steamed veg.
Black coffee is your best friend
I find having no food all day exponentially, weirdly, easier than I expected. It’s odd. But if I do have a serious hunger pang, black coffee really does the trick. There’s a reason all those slender French women drink so much of the stuff…
So is sugar-free gum
I’ve heard about all the possible (but not irrefutably proven…) health hazards of aspartame, but as a means to an end – to get rid of what is a definite health risk, with the fat around my middle – I’m not going to worry about chewing gum for a few weeks.
It gives my mouth a burst of flavour – I particularly like the new exotic fruit ones – which gets me through the tricky part of the afternoon.
And as above for sugar free drinks. I have a diet ginger beer as my cocktail while I make dinner and I love it.
Weigh yourself once a week – and after a fast day
I have weakly allowed myself the odd ‘in between’ weigh in and it was very disappointing as my weight seems to go oddly up and down day to day.
It’s hard not to worry about the non-fast days
I have rather been torturing myself that the home-made cookies and treacle tart I’ve eaten on my non-fast days are the reason for my slow weight loss.
I keep neurotically re-checking the section of the book which says you can eat what you want on the other five days – cakes, pies etc – but after years of restrictive diet misery it’s just so hard to trust it.
I always go to sleep on a fast day planning the lavish breakfast I’m going to have the next morning – fried bread always features in my fantasies – but when I wake up on that blessed dawn I don’t feel hungry at all. It’s really surprising.
Some post-fast mornings I haven’t even managed my normal breakfast, but once I do start eating I do rather want to eat the whole world. I don’t, of course, but it makes me a bit anxious that I’m mustering all this self discipline to fast and it could be all for nought.
This wasn’t helped when I read one of the many excellent articles Mimi Spencer has penned in the British press on 5:2 fasting in recent weeks, where she mentioned that at the same time she started fasting, she also gave up drinking alcohol entirely.
This isn’t mentioned in the book – it just advises not wasting calories on alcohol during a fast day – and in my moments of doubt, I can’t help wondering how much that contributed to her fabulous weight loss. I don’t drink much anyway, so I don’t think it’s the golden ticket for me, but I felt slightly let down when I read it.
You have to exercise
I’ve now accepted this is where I’ve been sabotaging my efforts. I absolutely detest all exercise except for dancing, sex and walking round shops, but I know I really have to force myself to do it. My successful fasting friend, Maria, is very sporty and gets a proper work out four times a week, plus cycling everywhere.
My other two successful weight loss friends (one’s a committed Dukan-ista, the other swears by Weight Watchers) both exercise that much. I know it’s the answer. So I went to the gym this morning and I’m determined to make it three days a week, plus my beloved yoga for toning.
I’m hoping this will make the difference the next time I report in on my progress, in four weeks time. Meanwhile, we will speak of jollier things… Watch this space.
PS I didn’t want to illustrate this post with any more pictures of empty plates, dismal bowls of salad, or even shots of women whose body shapes I envy, so instead I’ve just put up things which make me happy. Which are:
Treacle tart from the baking blog notsohumblepie; my cat Gonzo, when he was a kitten, conquering the North face of my drawing room curtains; Cary Grant with his poodle; chickens; Gucci loafers; Miranda Hart kissing ACTUAL Gary Barlow in a recent episode of Miranda; Bill Nighy; the Manolo Blahnick Campari pump in patent leather; Cam from Modern Family, saving their special tree in the park (I fell off the sofa laughing when he appeared in this outfit…); Paul Hollywood’s cream buns.